Archive for the ‘Environmental Issues’ Category

Bats Future Looks Bleak

According to this article efforts to save the little brown bat in NJ is pretty much a lost cause. They’ve lost 95% of their population since 2009 to the white-nose syndrome. I remember visiting the Bat Hibernaculum in Morris County about 7-8 years ago and it was amazing watching them swarm in (or out)… now you wouldn’t see that, they’re just not there.

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A settlement is reached in Centralia

The story of Centralia, the town which has had a coal fire burning beneath it for fifty years is the stuff of legend. I won’t retell the story in this post but search for it in the search box and you’ll find numerous posts about it. In short, the town decided to burn its garbage in 1962 and it lit a coal vein on fire which still burns to this day. Thousands of residents moved away, the local highway was ruined and a bypass built, and now after decades of fighting, the remaining residents (all seven of them) have made a deal. They will get a settlement of 218K and get to remain on their land but upon their death the state takes it by right of eminent domain. There had long been pressure on them to sell but they resisted because of the value of the coal that could be mined once they sold. Now those issues are resolved.

When the fire will stop burning, no one knows.

Two of NJ’s oldest and largest psychiatric facilities slated for demolition

A few weeks ago the state announced that it was seeking bids to demolish the main Kirkbride building that was the primary building at Greystone. A number of old buildings have already been torn down and now the state intends to finish the job. This week similar plans were announced for Marlboro. Marlboros demise was actually announced 2 years ago but numerous studies had to be done before any actual demolition could take place. The facility opened in 1931 and closed in 1998 though alcohol rehab treatment is still done in a handful of buildings if I recall correctly. Now abandoned for 15 years the buildings have deteriorated and natural decay mainly from weather and water damage has let asbestos contaminate the halls. I visited there myself about 7 years ago but I would likely not visit today if given the chance. Though the buildings may structurally be sound, certain areas have weak floors and that, coupled with the asbestos would far outweigh any benefits of exploration. It is estimated that it will cost 75M to demolish the buildings safely, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the cost were closer to 100M. I say that because the state estimates restoring the Kirkbridge building at Greystone would cost well in excess of $100M. The The question then becomes what to do with the sprawling estate, and a park seems a likely choice given the emphasis on Green Acres preservation. Anything would be better than to sell it off and make more subdivisions.

Picatinny Arsenal hunts for live shells buried on neighboring property

Neighboring properties to be searched. It’s only been 84 years…., I mean, no time like the present right?

Hong Kong Willie: of lobster buoys, worms, and burlap bags

the holiday tree of buoys

Pretend you’re on vacation in Florida, driving along a road that looks like any other. As you go around a bend in the road you see a helicopter, sitting in the side yard of a house that is covered with hundreds of colored lobster buoys. What would you do? Well, if you’re me, you turn around and find out what it’s all about. And that is how I discovered Hong Kong Willie. Parking nearby, we debated what to do (and by we, I mean my girlfriend). She comes from the Appalachian south, where you don’t just walk up to a strange house and say “Hi!” unless you want a shotgun stuck in your face. I don’t come from the south and, I prefer to trust my inner voice. The inner voice said, “If this person didn’t want visitors, they wouldn’t have decorated their house like this.” So I brazenly walked up to a house covered with lobster buoys, a 9-1-1 made from driftwood, a turtle shell bird fountain and a random chicken wandering around freely in the yard.

A sign on the door stated visiting hours, but the door was locked, so we carefully looked around, keeping in mind that while we were invited by the decor we hadn’t been, ya know, *invited*. After just a few minutes though, a gentleman emerged and introduced himself as Joe Brown. He explained that this was where local Tampa artist “Hong Kong Willie” displayed all his artwork. It wasn’t until much later into the conversation that I realized that Joe Brown and HKW were in fact one and the same and that he was speaking of himself in third person. Or more accurately there is no HKW, he ia representation of an idea, of reuse of recycling and conservation. Joe enjoyed talking about his art and seemed not at all surprised by our unexpected visit. People apparently stop by frequently for the same reason we did, out of nothing more than curiosity. “There has never been, in all the years of being here, some massive sign saying who we are and what we do,” Brown said. “Because when people finally decide out of inquisitiveness to slow down and stop, they’ve finally slowed down enough to hear the most important message of their life.”

Soon Joe was telling us about how he became a re-use artist. How does one become a re-use artist? For that matter, what is a re-use artist? Simply put, a re-use artist is one who repurposes items into art, often items that are found or scavenged. For example, you could take a glass Gerber baby food jar and melt it down, then with some additional materials you could make a beautiful paper weight. Something that would have been discarded after serving its original purpose, now has a new purpose and a new life. The idea is hardly original, but while many artists do this type of thing, not many can claim such an interesting history as Joe Brown.

Joe and his family lived on the Gunn Highway Landfill from 1958 to 1963. Nearly half of Tampa’s waste was brought in by the truckload every day until the landfill closed in 1962. “It was astounding how quick they could fill the 15 acres of enormous pits,” Brown said. As a child, he often would scavenge materials from the landfill and sell them for pocket money. One day, his mother took him to an art class taught by a native of Hong Kong where re-use of discarded materials was common. “It really made an impression on me,” he said. “It became very easy to think outside the box and know where I could find things from resources that were just abounding. I just feel so fortunate to be able to sit here and see assets that could be sitting in a big trench and there would be no energy coming from it,” he said. “And now a lot of it is finding homes in peoples’ houses and businesses and getting people to think about re-use.”

Brown started out life in the business world, not surprisingly, in the waste management field. Brown also told us that he worked for IBM and was involved with the development of bar code technology before finally deciding to leave the corporate world for something more personally satisfying: creating art and living an ecologically sustainable lifestyle.

In the Florida Keys there is an abudance of styrofoam buoys used by local fisherman. Styrofoam doesn’t biodegrade very well, but it does have a limited shelf life for its original purpose of being a buoy. Brown collected a large number of discarded buoys and eventually created the buoy tree which sits in his front yard. From a distance the individual buoys blend into one enormous shape which I originally took for a giant ice cream cone. Up close one can see lots and lots of individually painted buoys. “It is Styrofoam; we understand that it does not degrade, but to blame the fishermen for their livelihood wouldn’t be correct. Instead we find a usage for those,” Brown said. He hopes the novelty of the buoy tree will inspire and stimulate children to find new ways to reduce, re-use and recycle garbage.

Brown said art is viewed and appreciated differently by different people. “If it all came out the same, it would be like bland grits all the time,” Brown said. “I also try to stay away from imprinting a definite use for a definite item.” He explains, for example, that 2-liter bottles are not limited only to making bird feeders. The bottles can be used for many other art and craft projects. Not all the items he collects turn into art. Some are simply repurposed, like burlap bags from coffee and peanut producers which he sells to the U.S. National Forestry Service for the collection of pine seeds and to Sam Adams Brewing for hops production.

Brown said the larger message he wants to communicate is that the disposal of garbage today is creating a toxic environment.

Besides selling his art to private individuals, Hong Kong Willie has provided pieces to local business and helped with much of the decor at Gaspar’s Patio Bar and Grille in Temple Terrace. According to one article I found while researching the artist, Gaspar’s owner Jimmy Ciaccio said the artist’s inventory reflected his vision when he remodeled the restaurant. “Joe’s work inspires me,” Ciaccio said. “I always see something different every time I look at how he decorated the place.” In addition Brown has a side business selling compost, soil and worms. Brown and his family compost waste materials to feed their Florida red worms. He sells these worms by the pound to gardeners and by the cup to local fisherman. One local said they are great for catching blue gills, sand perch and other local favorites. He also added that he likes getting his worms from Brown “because his bait stays alive longer than any other baits I’ve used.”

If you want to visit Hong Kong Willie, the studio is located on Morris bridge Rd, Tampa right near the entrance to I-75, or just visit his blog HKW also sells Florida red worms thru a separate blog

Blogspot interview with Joe Brown

Youtube interview

another YT interview

Fox news interview

WEDU news story

Green website article about HKW

another article about HKW

Hoffman Grove slowly slips away

I first wrote about Hoffman Grove back in 2006 when I explored the area after one of the homes there was listed in the paper for sale. $200K for a house in Wayne? Yeah, what’s the catch? Oh yeah… constant flooding. Read the original post for the full story, but I found much had changed since I last visited in 2008. here’s some pics. At that time the community was still vibrant and most had refused to be bought out. There was an attitude of “this is what we have to put up with” and the desire to stay was string. After several floods in 2008, the state took action and in 2009, 36 homes were slated to be bought out.. There were several bad floods in early 2011, but Hurricane irene in August of 2011 was the final blow. FEMA stepped in and most of the remaining homes were bought out.

I took a visit to Hoffman grove this morning and what I saw was depressing. There were still many homes left, but most had plywood over the 1st level windows. Some had them over the doors and garage entrances as well. Yet I could clearly see curtains and items inside the 2nd floor windows. And some had cars in front of them. After driving around several times it became clear: cars meant there was a current resident. No cars meant no one was there and never would be again. Many left behind gas grills, toys, lawn furniture and other personal possessions. Saddest of all was the sight of this flag, upside down, the official sign for distress.

here are some pictures I took, the rest are on Flickr

Some interesting stuff in the paper: an irish bar and a bunch of worries about pollution.

This bar in Denville seems pretty cool. It’s only the second thatched roof Irish bar in the United States.

In bridgewater Twp, a superfund site got submerged in over 10 feet of water for a long time. Did those water leech toxins and move them around? Probably.

Shipwrecks off the jersey and Maryland coastline are leaking fuel… and thats never a good thing.

Staying on the issue of pollution the long polluted Quanta site in Edgewater will be capped. 150,000 cubic yards will remain underground. Granted paying 5M to cap it is more economical then paying $300M to clean it up right… but why are we not making the companies pay for it? But the EPA is evil folks, it’s *big government*. That’s why Herman Caine would appoint oil and gas execs to head the EPA if he gets elected…. There isn’t a big enough #facepalm for this kind of thinking.